by Ishmael Brown of The National Tutoring Association.
As tutors, we (certified or not) feel that we have a passion for the subject area(s) that we tutor. We are as fond of our subject area as we are of our tutees. We know that whatever type of problem that a student may bring to us, that we can easily solve it, and that we especially know how to illustrate our process to our tutee.
For years, states have been using their own standards with districts using their own curriculums for those standards. It made the job of being a tutor somewhat easy because some of the states’ standards and/or indicators had not changed in years. There were instances where one state would have Algebra II as a course, while another state would call the same course Math Sequence 3 (or something to that affect).
Neighboring districts would even have vastly different curriculums, but across that state, all of the districts would teach the same standards. But, as of late, there is at least one common denominator (no pun intended) that has crept into the education forefront: The Common Core State Standards.
For those who are not familiar with the Common Core State Standards (or the Common Core as is affectionately called), these standards, introduced and voted on by the National Governor’s Association, are a “common” set of standards that includes an abundance of rigorous and challenging indicators, use a more leveled comparison between states on assessments and better prepares students for college and career readiness.
It is to be understood that the Common Core is not a curriculum; it is a set of standards used to direct the curriculum. Students will be introduced into a more rigorous curriculum aligned with the Common Core standards as the stakes grow for each state. Every grade level will receive a revamped set of standards, and specific grades will be tested for national comparison, possibly for the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
While some states have not only enthusiastically accepted the Common Core and started implementation, others have reluctantly jumped on board, and a small few decided not to be in “common” with the Common Core. Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia to date have not joined the other 45 states and U.S. Territories in adopting these new and intense standards.
To some, it is understandable that these measures would be met with resistance. For instance, parents, educators, and administrators alike have complained about the lack of gradual movement into the Common Core for students already into the middle or high school curriculum. Even though rigor has been introduced in some state indicators and standards, others never fully implemented the idea, possibly because of the high stakes of NCLB and the rankings between the school districts and states. An interesting argument included the national assessment being “overly-indulged” on name-brand products causing students to lose focus with the actual problem. (Here is an article from an 8th grader about his problem with the assessment:
With the demand the Common Core places on educators in the classroom, it is just as (if not more) difficult on those of us that tutor English and mathematics. For example, in South Carolina (where I live), one 8th grade standard reads as follows:
“8-2.2 Understand the effect of multiplying and dividing a rational number by another rational number” with a corresponding example looking like . The Common Core standard that closely resembles the previous indicator reads as follows: “6.NS.1 Interpret and compute quotients of fractions, solve word problems involving division of fractions by fractions, e.g. by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem.” My version of a corresponding example looks like this:
Rodney and Ishmael were hanging out one night and decided to get a large pizza. The Pizza Portal had a special on a large 3-topping pizza for $15.00, including tax. The guys had a rule “You get what you pay for” meaning your portion equals to the amount you pay for. Ishmael had only $6 and Rodney covered the rest.
a. If a large pizza has 10 slices, how many slices does Rodney get?
b. Before they get started devouring the pizza, Ishmael’s brother and his greedy friend shows up and wants some pizza. He decides to split his portion of the original pizza into thirds. How much pizza does Ishmael actually eat of the entire pizza?
(In case you didn’t notice, the number if the front of the standard is no longer an 8, but a 6, which makes this a 6th grade standard.)
Our best preparation is knowledge. We know it’s here, and it’s not going anywhere. We know tutors will be in high demand, and here are some tips we can use to help the teachers educate our students.
- Become familiar with the Common Core. Except for the states mentioned above, any state that you travel in, Common Core will be there. Learn the standards for the grades you will be tutoring; it allows the teacher to provide more enrichment during class time.
- Utilize online resources specifically with “Common Core” as a curriculum choice. There are some that designate for states, but every state except for two (Nevada and New Hampshire will be fully implementing by the 2014-2015 school year). It is best that tutors get a start now.
- Recruit in smaller school districts. In some small, rural districts, Common Core has not been mentioned much. (We have had some smaller, rural school districts in South Carolina that were not using the newest version of the state indicators as of last year, and that was in 2007).
- One website in particular that I have a high fondness to is Illustrative Mathematics (http://www.illustrativemathematics.org). This website allow you to choose a grade, domain, cluster, and standard, then gives multiple examples for each standard. You can also print from the website.
For more on the Common Core State Standards, go to http://www.corestandards.org.
Ishmael Brown, Jr.
About the Author:
Ishmael Brown, Jr is a Certified math teacher, teaching for 16 years with an impeccable record of motivating students to succeed. He is the owner and founder of InfiNeXt Educational Solutions, LLC, an educational support company that specializes in tutoring, academic coaching, and workshops and seminars on educational-related topics. Ishmael has a B.S. Degree in Mathematics with a minor in Physics. He holds certification through the National Tutoring Association (NTA) as an Advanced Tutor (with a Mathematics Endorsement) and Academic Coach.
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